The initial drafts of Mystic Searches came in 1988, when I was only 8 years old, in the form of ideas for a video game that would play on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Those simple colored pencil sketches were lost to time. Rediscovering those concepts as an adult in a box of childhood keepsakes hidden in my parents’ Central New York home was the impetus to bring new life to the fantasy tale that I’d abandoned in my youth.
At first, the idea to realize the ambitions of a version of myself that hadn’t yet graduated elementary school was a bit of a novelty. But as I started to view the ideas through the lens of 30 years of creative maturation, it became obvious that this forgotten project was foundational in all of the creative things I’ve done since. So, after spending the better part of a decade crafting lore that could only be suggested within the limitations of an 8-bit game, Mystic Searches has unexpectedly become my creative focus, and has led to the production of a transmedia experience. That does include (as originally intended by my 8-year-old self) a hardware playable cartridge for the Nintendo Entertainment System, but also much more.
Myrinda. Playground of deities.
The fabled continent where the makeup of corporeal reality is still malleable. To the mundane world, sacred accounts of the strange land are no more than a collection of allegories on which the world’s cultures were founded. But make no mistake, the place is real, as is all of its wonder.
As the oldest stories tell it, the Age of Wonder saw brave explorers from all races converge on Myrinda’s shores. They came to cheat death, or to create life. They came to heal the sick, or to curse the fortunate. They came to learn the secrets of divination, or to take militant command of their fate. They came to find balance, or to invoke entropy. They all came with personal motivations, and they all recklessly tapped in to the supernatural agencies with no regard to consequence.
As word spread of the land’s magical properties, the scattered pilgrimages became mass immigration. The sparse, supernatural wells were torn open. Whether the response came from the deities or from the elements or from nature itself, the consequence was violent and beyond explanation. The global cataclysm known as the Samudaripen consumed the world. Entire civilizations were lost. The Age of Wonder ended. As the generations passed and the embers of memory went cold, stories of Myrinda and its magic devolved into myth.
Which is the exact intent of its protectors. After the Samudaripen, Myrinda was vacant save for those who were capable of the strongest communion with the mystical elements. A rigorous, dogmatic order was established. Individual caretakers took on the responsibility for each magic type, and acted as both vanguard and regulators. These were the first of the Mystics, and through thoughtful discipline and careful control, they have existed as custodians of magic, keeping Myrinda safely hidden from the world for generations.
But not everyone in Myrinda values the strict, regimented control over the world’s magic. Lately there has been unrest. Racial rivalries have divided the population. The wildlife has become restless and aggressive. Politicians have marginalized the salience of magic entirely. And a rogue cult has been infiltrating all communities, spreading a manifesto which seems aimed at undermining faith in the order of Mystics.
From the Celestial Observatory at the Sage Lakes, Mystic Paen reads the warning spelled across the night sky. The pattern in the stars warns of something ominous. Something that the Mystics will be powerless to prevent. And in the stars, he reads that Julian, the young vagabond who hears the song of the world, will have a vital part to play.
The world of Myrinda is complete with its own otherworldly bestiary. The beasts on the hidden continent have evolved through natural association with their various biomes, but often also mutated by the aura of magic by which they are surrounded.
There was a time where Myrinda was unified and resolute, but that time is now a distant memory. The pockets of civilization are disconnected, insular, and often at odds ideologically. For the most part, the civilized part of the continent conforms to the joint legal governance of the capital city of Iohai and the spiritual guidance of the Mystic of Order, but even there, there are old feuds and rampant racial tensions. Meanwhile in the outlands to the east, distrust and contempt has grown.
From the inquisitive yet quaint Myrs of Sage Lakes to the aristocratic lineage in Iohai to the Galbeton mining guild with their Rhukwood laborers to Zmeu's quarter dragon children manning the prisons of Nark to Sardonyx and his insect like Uareg to the bogmen in Swynhall, Myrinda has a colorful spectrum of characters with whom you'll meet along your quest.
The story began as loose, derivative fantasy mythos concocted by an 8 year old mind. It continued to evolve and grow over the years until it became what it is today. A novelization of the game universe expands the world to fill in a level of tone and scope that the game alone can not hope to convey.
The Night's Licentious Orchestra
Musing the Wraiths of Verekai
Working with Austin, we had to reimagine the story from illustrated daydreams of a child. We had to interpret the juvenile images and stitch them together with our adult sensibilities, deciding what to jettison, what to embrace, and what to overhaul in order to create a compelling narrative that paid off on the original vision, yet with sophistication and purpose enough to justify developing. The story grew. It evolved. It took on new themes. It became prose. It became animation. It was gamified. Now, the collective reinterpretation’s return to an illustrated storytelling medium asserts the new potential for this fantasy world.
This short preview of the first issue of the Mystic Searches comic series coincides with the dramatic reading of the prologue above.
To play, press and hold the enter key. To stop, release the enter key.
The music for Mystic Searches is inextricable from its lore. The story itself is about a young musician with a supernatural gift to tap into the song of the world. As such, the musical component was always very important to get right. Even though the ultimate deliverable is in the form of four voice 8-bit chip tunes, the actual conceptualization and writing process is still very much akin to working on a film score orchestration. Logically, crushing it down to the limits of the NES has compelled me to also see it expanded. Teaming up with composer Boris Sevastyanov, we symphonically arranged a suite of music from the game universe to tell the tale through its musical motifs.
**These are still only drafts of the finished suite, but here you can get a feel for the tone of the adventure in musical form.